Dress sizes: how annoying are they? I have a size 8 back, you see, but my embonpoint means I often have to buy a size 12 top even though it hangs like a tent over my size 10 (sometimes 8 waist.) OK, I can accept that, just as I can accept that I’ll never be able to buy formal clothes that simply fit me. For everyday life my odd body shape isn’t that much of a problem. T shirts and jumpers, especially those with deep scoop necks and slightly fitted waists, are fine. I can dress without much thought in my everyday wardrobe of casual yet stylish basics from places like Celtic and J Crew but I’m a family member at both a wedding and a civil partnership later this year and those occasions require a little more effort than a simple black T shirt and a cropped Brora cardi. It is proving difficult to find a dress that I like that actually fits me.
Even if I wen’t short waisted and…errr…blessed with a curvaceous and comforting bosom, I wouldn’t be able to reconcile myself to all the inconsistencies in size and cut. For example, I bought a knitted dress from Celtic and Co. last year that was a British size 8-10. It fits, it’s flattering. I suppose it helps that it’s basically just a long jumper and therefore has the requisite amount of “give.” I’ve taken delivery of an Issa dress in size 12 and, aside from needing to be lifted a couple of inches at the shoulders, it fits fine. On the other hand I’ve just packed up a size 12 dress from Bombshell, the dress makers who say they cater for us asset-rich women, because I could only get the back zip done up half way. Yes, I know, I could order a size 14 but it really does stick in the craw when I normally wear a 10. A few years ago I bought a MaxMara dress in a size 10 and and jacket from the same shop in a size 14 on the same day. More recently, I bought some tweed shorts from Brora in a size 8-10 and then had to return a size 10 skirt to them as it was too small. The 12 only just fits. There is NO WAY that I’m a size 14 skirt size. It’s deeply irritating, especially to someone who likes things to be orderly. So why are sizes so inconsistent?
Some clothing manufacturers don’t seem to give much thought to sizing conventions. “That model comes up small,” they’ll say or “That model is true to size.” How can two dresses in the same size both be “true to size” when one of them one does not fit?
Further, the “hourglass shape” used to be a feminine ideal and yet so few clothing manufacturers seem to allow for any breast size above a B cup despite evidence that women’s breasts are getting bigger. If the average bra size is now 36D, why are there still so few clothes around in a standard size that actually fit over the boobs?
Sizes are, of course, relative to the market positioning of a clothing company. When I bought the size XXL trousers in Joseph I can only have been a size 12 at very largest at that between-the-pregnancies point. The average UK woman is a size 14-16 but Joseph obviously targets its clothes at Parisian women who exist on a diet of coffee, cigarettes and disdain. I like Joseph but their attitude to sizing really gets on my proverbials: I’ve tried the same dress in size medium and size large (LARGE!!) in their shop and there was little or no difference between the two. On the other hand, Wall, the Notting Hill-based outfit that sells its good quality basics to ladies of a certain age has me as a size XS. Which is more like it, obviously. Marks & Spencer’s clothes used to be generously sized but seem to be getting smaller over time. I speculate that this presents a huge saving in fabric to such a high-volume retailer.
Clothing size has so much to do with vanity. Hence my hesitation at replacing my dress with a size 14. Last year, to my shame, I burst a zip on a pair of petite trousers (petite in length means smaller all over) rather than buying the larger size. I had poured myself into them and actually damaged the skin on my hips trying to do them up.They languished in my wardrobe, a guilty secret until very recently, when I saw reason and threw them out.
Being short-waisted and having to subject all newly-bought prize possessions to major surgery before they look their best is annoying enough without the sizing discrepancy. I do wonder whether it would be easier to have the surgery myself. Or just to wear a Hawaian Moo-Moo all the time. Ugh.
***This post not sponsored, unsurprisingly***